December 30, 2023


One Editor For All My Text Files

This should not be a difficult search. Looking for one editor to handle all of my text file needs.

What Are My Text File Needs?

  1. I write in Markdown. I want good support for Markdown. Keyboard commands to make the input of Markdown syntax easier. Good syntax highlighting. Some automations. Automatic insertion of closing bracket if I type the opening bracket. Automatic continuation of lists both numbered and unordered. Fast movement between titles and sub-titles of a Markdown document.
  2. The ability to have a bunch of files open and easy navigation between files. Easy navigation should include keyboard commands.
  3. A good writing environment. Spell-checker. Support for macOS conventions like two periods turn into a period and the opening letter of a new sentence is capitalized would be a bonus. Nice themes.
  4. Typewriter scrolling. Hate looking at the bottom of the screen when I am writing.
  5. Regex support.
  6. Good performance. Low memory usage. Fast. Stable and reliable.
  7. Ability to deal with large files1. By large, I mean files which are in the megabytes. Not gigabytes.

Obviously the Answer Is VSCode

VSCode is the dominant text editor in the market. I tried it.

It is fantastic.

Does everything I want it to do. It’s memory usage is a tad crazy, but a text editor is the main program on my computer and I am willing to look past it chomping on memory.

It doesn’t do well with large files. Everything lags. You hit the ↩︎ key and wait. Nothing happens. It is busy trying to create the outline view. If you wait, it suddenly responds to a few of the ↩︎ keys that you typed. The performance is abysmal. It is responsive when you are dealing with small files. This problem occurs with large files. I use a lot of those. VSCode unfortunately can’t be solution for my usage. Pity.

The Answer Has to Be Emacs

You would think so. But not really. When you are dealing with a large Markdown file, you are going to have to switch to Fundamental Mode and then you might be able to scroll through that without a lot of lag. How do people work in this editor?

Of course I am an Emacs newbie and I might have some setup weirdness which is making Emacs slow and unresponsive dealing with large files. I don’t know how to solve that problem. Thus, it can’t be Emacs.

Surprise. The Answer Is BBEdit.

Yes. I am using BBEdit.

BBEdit does a lot of things well. It is a full-featured text editor. I have had a license for a long time. I keep upgrading it. There is reason behind my madness.

It has lousy syntax highlighting. It doesn’t do task lists or strikethrough. Hell, it doesn’t do italics or bold. It has no typewriter scrolling. It has no keyboard commands for Markdown. Everything is manual.

But it deals with large files. It is fast, stable, and efficient. It’s low memory usage is laughable when you compare it to VSCode or Obsidian.

A few Keyboard Maestro macros, a few Services, a few AppleScripts from BBEdit-Markdown Extensions Coyote Tracks, and I have a text editor which lets me write Markdown and be happy in it. Well, not quite happy, but contended enough to stick to it.

BBEdit for Writers: A Guide and Appreciation2 was helpful in this journey.


BBEdit is not without its faults. But it does some of the basics better than the competition. Primarily, it is stable and efficient. I don’t have to worry about it. It deals with my text files and does it well enough. Does not fill me with joy but it works and that is all I need from a text editor.

Thanks: To Photo by j.mt_photography

macosxguru at the gmail thingie.

  1. You will be surprised at how often programs have trouble with this feature.↩︎

  2. Thanks to Eric Beavers for the correct URL. Sorry about that.↩︎

macOS bbedit

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